The body representing legal executives and paralegals has called for its members to have the same practice rights as solicitors, claiming the reform would make the legal profession more representative of society.
The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives pledged to lobby for changes to the legal system in 2019 that recognise members’ contribution to the sector.
A new legal framework, it argued, should place legal executives ‘on a par’ with solicitors, improving diversity in the upper echelons of the profession and increasing access to justice for a wider section of society.
This element of the profession calling for parity is not new, but the growing influence and presence of legal executives and paralegals in law firms may start to improve their prospects of persuading the government to relax the rules.
Among its key aims, CILEx wants to open up senior judicial roles to chartered legal executives and change the rules so its members can apply for court and tribunal posts higher than district judge.
CILEx president Phil Sherwood said the judiciary struggled to represent women and ethnic minorities and that the solution was ‘staring government in the face but is ignored due to professional snobbery’.
CILEx also wants restrictions lifted on its lawyers selling their services abroad post-Brexit, and on them providing certain legal services.
Sherwood said its members do the same work as their solicitor counterparts, but for example cannot prove a Power of Attorney by means of a certified copy. This restriction is due to ‘out of date laws that have remained unchanged since the seventies’.
The organisation is also proposing that legal executives are consulted on key reforms affecting the sector, such as changes underway in leasehold, personal injury, divorce and debt recovery work.
Sherwood added: ‘Chartered Legal Executives and solicitors have been performing the same roles for decades, but their public standing, and many areas of our legal system, are yet to catch up with that reality.
‘Three quarters of our membership are women and we have far greater representation from ethnic minorities and state-school backgrounds than other parts of the profession. This diversity, along with the technical specialism many of our members have, means CILEx has a unique perspective to offer policy makers.’